The Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to do something they have not done in their MLS club history. They have a chance to win the Voyageurs Cup for the second straight year in a row as they face CF Montreal at BC Place on Wednesday evening.
The Whitecaps won the Voyageurs Cup last season. They drew 1-1 with Toronto FC after 90 minutes and Tristan Blackmon’s penalty sealed the victory in front of a crowd of over 24,000 at BC Place. You might remember head coach Vanni Sartini taking his shirt off in celebration.
The first time they won the Voyageurs Cup was in 2015 and that was when CF Montreal were called the Montreal Impact. Back then, the final was contested over two legs and BC Place hosted the second leg. It was tied 2-2 heading into the second leg but Octavio Rivero and Tim Parker scored the goals for a 2-0 Whitecaps win. (4-2 on aggregate)
After the game, Pah Madou Kah celebrated on a hoverboard.
The great thing about cup finals in soccer is that anything can happen. It is one game and it could go either way.
The Whitecaps are the favourites. Why? They have the better overall squad, are at home, and have been in decent form in MLS.
However, CF Montreal are looking to spoil the party and win their fifth Canadian Championship title.
CF Montreal had a phenomenal 2022 season and finished second in the Eastern Conference and third in MLS. Poised for a deep run, they were unfortunately knocked out by New York City FC in the second round.
That offseason, a mass exodus began. Wilfred Nancy, who was a nominee for MLS Coach of The Year, left Montreal to become the head coach of the Columbus Crew. It was reported that he did not get along with owner Joey Saputo which resulted in his exit. Nancy was replaced by former DC United head coach Hernán Losada
Canadians Alistair Johnson and Ismael Kone left for Europe. Johnson was sold to Celtic, (where he has just won the domestic treble) and Kone signed for English Championship side Watford.
There was also attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailvoic, who left to join Az Alkmaar in the Eredivisie.
Montreal also lost veteran striker Kei Kamara who was traded to the Chicago Fire as he was reportedly unhappy with contract extension offers and wanted out. Canadian defender Kamal Miller was also traded to Inter Miami in April.
They lost a lot of players and it hurt them. CF Montreal just won one of their first seven games to start the season and that included a 5-0 beatdown against the Whitecaps at BC Place on April 1.
But things have turned around for them. They have won five out of their last seven games in MLS and beat Vaughn Azzuri, Toronto FC and Forge to reach the final.
While Montreal lost many key players, they still have some good players. That includes midfielder Victor Wanyama. The former Celtic, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur player is an excellent passer.
But CF Montreal are missing two key players due to injury. That includes striker Romell Quioto who is out with a long-term hamstring injury. Their captain and Canadian international Samuel Piette is still recovering from his leg injury that he sustained against the Whitecaps in their game in April.
CF Montreal’s last game was a 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, which featured a rotated squad.
“There was a lot of space in between the top and the end, and it was kind of, I don’t want to say easy, but you could have exploited them,” said Sartini on Tuesday afternoon on the 5-0 win against Montreal earlier in the season and how they are now. ” Now, they are much more compact…At the beginning it was a little bit of a shock… of a transition year for them. New coach, all the best players sold so they had to find their own foot. Losada had to, I would say probably, sell his idea to the players…I think that their turnaround was when they beat like, I don’t know, Vaughn Azzuri or whatever, 2-0, and then they started winning games there, and they built confidence because of the Canadian Cup. So, of course, they have a special relationship with the competition.”
Keys to a Whitecaps victory
The Whitecaps’ key starters played in their 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City. With Montreal resting their starters and Vancouver playing with some tired legs, Montreal will look to control the game early but the Whitecaps will need to do the same.
They will have the crowd behind them and getting that first goal as earlier as possible will create some momentum for the rest of the game.
The Whitecaps have excelled with their press. Wins against the Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders and even the semi-final win over Pacific were prime examples. The Whitecaps in defence were closing down on the attackers and marking them closely. They have been good at creating turnovers and going on the counter-attack to score goals.
Defensively, they need to keep playing their smart and simple game: Just get the ball and clear it. If it is in the air, clear it and if they make a tackle in the box, clear it or start a counterattack.
Sartini also talked about another important key to victory: Attention to detail.
I like to talk about what happened in the field, and I think that’s the reason why, when you prepare this game, the attention to detail is even more important than any other games,” he said. ” I want the players to know everything about Montreal or at least what we think that Montreal is going to do in order to be ready to see that picture. Those are the things that, to be honest, I think we did fantastically last year against Toronto and I think we have to do the same tomorrow if we want to win the game.”
It was announced that the Whitecaps once again called up forward Levonte Johnson on a short-term basis. With Ali Ahmed out, and Sartini saying Ryan Raposo and Russell Teibert starting, he is an option to start due to the Canadian Championship rule of three Canadian starters.
Fans can also get 50% off alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks before kickoff and the Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich.